The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert is a story that seamlessly integrates meticulous botanical details into your knowledge base as one reads this coming-of-age love story. The uniquely original ecosystems of moss are one such topic. Walking through the forest this past fall, this scene on the forest floor reminded me of Alma Whittaker’s fascination with such ecosystems. I felt somewhat guilty not returning regularly to document the changes within.
Dormancy happens in the heat of summer for some spring-blooming, native woodland plants. Leaves brown, wither, and then become a part of the forest floor. Later in summer the fruit appears. These images are of the native Jack in the Pulpit, shown May 12, 2013 (Humble Interests) with dried leaves still attached to the plant.
This morning I am reminded of how little I yet have learned, how much there still is to learn. Providing background information of my natural subjects is one of my strategies to mark my passion for nature’s wonders as contagious. Today, the best I can hope for is to instill you with a sense of awe; specifically an awe in the multiplicity of Sedges. If that’s too ambitious of me, please just enjoy the pictures I share!
Caricology is the study of this large species, Sedge (carex). The identification of the sedges in these images remains a mystery to me. I’m content to know that I still haven’t learned it all; actually I’m excited to know I’m not done exploring life’s mysteries.
The Sedges alongside the riverbank were expected natives. Connecting this river with the forest through which it flowed brought together two moist loving species that do not usually mingle with each other. My eye focused on a colony of Mayapples (Podophyllum). Mayapples are woodland natives that stir folktale imaginations in my mind with each springtime encounter. Here they were sharing the forest floor with Sedges. Crouching down as I hunted for yet-to-bloom Mayapple flowers I quickly became fascinated by the stringy fuzz of these Sedges.
-Read other Mayapple posts of mine:
- “May in April…”, April 2012
- “Shy beauty…”, May 2013
-Illinois is host to over 200 “Sedges, grasses and non-flowering plants”: http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/grasses/grass_index.htm .
Trillium are in bloom as well as the other previously mentioned springtime woodland plants. This patch of forest held both the Great White Trillium (trillium grandiflorum) and Purple Trillium (Trillium recurvatum). Appropriately, named “Great” White Trillium’s bloom is substantially grander than the understated Purple Trillium. The first’s brilliant white stance draws one’s eyes in contrast to the purple’s blending into the woodland shade.
For more reading see older posts:
- Frosted Trillium, April 2012
- Humble interests, May 2013
Fall brings the reappearance of Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema spp.). Early spring is when the plant’s name is apparent from the three leaves and unique flower design. Then this plant seems to go dormant, but just may be covered by other blooming plants. This time of year, the stalk is visible with a large cluster of bright red berries.
This image shows berries appearing through browning Lily of the Valley leaves.
Today, twenty-eight years seems like a long time to stay in one place. That is how long I have lived in my little piece of natural paradise just north of Chicago. The longer I live here the more intrigued I am with the history of the adjacent patch of less tampered with land, which is officially part of the Cook County Forest Preserve. I have heard that this patch of land was once home to a Calvary Station; but alas, I have been unable to find any record of any such past. In fact, I have been unable to find any specific record revealing the history of this exact space. Upon our arrival as new homeowners, I was surprised to learn the fern growing on the forest floor was a native to this naturally marshy savannah. Turns out that my choice of fern for our front window box was most appropriate in my mostly-native perennial garden.
Cinnamon Fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum) is an aged native. It is so old it is considered a living fossil. That really gets my imagination running. Now I don’t only wonder what our small habitat was like several hundred years ago; what would it have looked like a thousand years ago, or longer?! Human impact is often negative in effect for native species. My novice gardening skills proved fatal for my window box newly planted fern in spite of their prehistoric lineage. Turns out fern NEED their tubers to be at ground level; my eagerness to provide a lush covering of soil, peat and mulch was only successful in smothering. They have been replaced and cared by this now more learned gardener.
Fiddleheads are the curled up, unopened new plant growth that appears above ground this time of year. It is the unfurled fern’s fronds. “Cinnamon” refers to the resulting color only of the inner spore-bearing fronds after they have shed their spores. The fern is absent of any spicy aroma or taste. Still the Cinnamon Fern‘s fiddlehead is edible, but apparently not as palatable as some other springtime fern varieties.